Liam Finn targets European glory with Ireland after 2014 frustration
Liam Finn is hoping to lead Ireland to glory after experiencing a unique bitter-sweet memory of their 2014 European Championship campaign.
The Castleford scrum-half missed Ireland's opening two games against France and Scotland last year after undergoing elbow surgery but returned for their final game against Wales in Wrexham, which they needed to win by 41 points to pip Scotland to the title.
Finn scored a try and kicked seven goals to put them on course for an unlikely triumph but a breakaway Welsh try in the last minute meant they fell just short of their target.
"I still look back at it and think it was pretty special to get that close to winning it," Finn said. "The lads were outstanding.
"To win so comfortably in that last game but being absolutely gutted was quite a unique feeling. I've never really felt like that in a changing room before."
Finn captained the Wolfhounds in the 2013 World Cup but his representative career stretches back to his formative international career when he was a part-time player with Dewsbury.
"I'm always keen to play for Ireland," he said. "They were there a long time before I was playing at Super League level."
Ireland open their 2015 campaign against France on Saturday afternoon hoping to repeat last year's 22-12 victory over Richard Agar's men in Dublin but this time they will be away from home in Albi.
Finn added: "Everybody knows France in France are a completely different entity to France away from home. We're expecting a tough game in Albi and then we got to Scotland the week after so we'll have our work cut out to do well this year.
"It would be brilliant to be in with a chance going into our last game in Bray."
Ireland coach Mark Aston has named three uncapped players in Gareth Gill, from Ballynahinch Rabbitohs, Bradford's Oliver Roberts and London Broncos half-back Joe Keyes, while Agar has included a host of new faces in his 19-man squad which will be led by 21-year-old St Helens-bound scrum-half Theo Fages.
France (from): J-P Baille (Bradford), G Springer (Castleford), J Bousquet, M Escare, D Cardace, A Maria, T Gigot (Catalans Dragons), F Rouanet (Lézignan), J Boudebza, K Larroyer (Hull KR), W Barthau (London Broncos), R Marginet, U Perez, S Robin, J Sigismeau (St Esteve), T Fages (St Helens), C Boyer (Toulouse), M Simon (Wakefield), B Jullien (Warrington).
Ireland (from): G Gill (Ballynahinch), E Cosgrove (Batley), J Mendeika, O Roberts (Bradford), H Peacock (Carcassonne), L Finn (Castleford), C Mulkeen, G O'Keeffe (Gloucester All Golds), L Ambler, B Johnston (Halifax), S Grix (Huddersfield), B Beswick (Leigh), J Keyes (London Broncos), C Dunne (Longhorns RL), W Hope (Oldham), B Hargreaves, D Bridge, M Hadden (Rochdale).
:: The first round of the European Championship, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, is part of a bumper weekend of international rugby league.
Cook Islands, who include Wigan centre Anthony Gelling, play Tonga at Campbelltown in Sydney on Saturday morning in a one-off match to determine the final Pacific qualifying spot for the 2017 World Cup while i n Athens, Greece will take on Spain for the final place in next year's European qualifying tournament.
On Sunday the USA will be aiming to square the Colonial Cup Series with Canada in Pennsylvania in the final game before Leeds coach Brian McDermott joins them for their World Cup qualifying tournament in Florida, where they will be joined by the Canadians and Jamaica to compete for the Americas spot in 2017.